It Was The Best Gig Ever # 29: PJ Harvey , Sydney 2004
An occasional series from the Off The Tracks days, thinking back on the truly essential gigs, the ones that mean the most, and the times associated with that particular show/listening to that artist
I was into PJ Harvey at the end of my high school years, and into university. Big time. She was a new artist then — and we all loved her. Even if we didn’t listen to her much, we said we did. She was that sort of artist. But I really did like her music, I mean how could you not, right? This was a serious artist — and someone that was also just seriously good. But it was her most mainstream album (I guess) that really sold me on her. 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea was one of those albums you just had to have, and everyone was keen to hear. It was everywhere, like Beck’s Odelay had been everywhere. It was, like that, totally ‘cool’ and yet utterly accessible.
By the time of 2004’s Uh Huh Her, she was my favourite! And I had swept up all the early albums — and I adored them all. And then she was playing a concert in Sydney. Australia. And it was in December, so near enough to Christmas, easy chance for a day or two off work and a long weekend. Also, and most importantly, my best mate was living there. He had only recently moved there, but had been in the UK for 2-3 years ahead of that. So, really, it was about seeing him, and a couple of other mates that lived in Sydney. With one hell of a side-bonus: PJ HARVEY!
It was my first solo trip overseas, I’m pretty sure. And I took a discman with me to listen to things like The Album Leaf and Jakob on the plane. I walked around Sydney for the day while my mate was at work. And then we had some drinks with a few of our buddies, building up to the gig.
Actually, it was one of those gigs where we probably had too many drinks beforehand, it happens sometime — but even when I was drinking lots, I never liked being too smashed at, or before a gig. This was a rush of blood to the head though, first time out in this fashion — catching up with good old mates, and a long day too, had been up early and into it all day
But I do remember the gig. My mate tried to light a joint just as the lights went down and he was chased out by security and removed about two songs in. No more show for him. Another mate was so chopped that he screamed, “come on, big fish little fish, FUCK YOU”. But he also screamed that literally as that song in question (Down By The Water) had finished.
It was an amazing setlist, for that time.
Look at it!
Just a bunch of bangers off the albums to date. And then there was this announcement that she was kinda going away for a while.
The encore felt very heavy. The whole set did, in a way. A four piece band with two drummers - it was the sort of thing that could seem indulgent, but didn’t. It was just magical.
And that was it. No more PJ Harvey ever. It seemed. Shortly after, she announced she was retiring from touring. But of course, you have to go away to come back. And a few years later it was a whole new sound. And I’d even get to see her again, at a show that was probably better. But this one was so much fun. And the start of a very cool long weekend in Sydney.
When I landed back in Wellington, exhausted, elated, they had lost my bag. But that turned up a couple of days later and was couriered out to me.
Good times. Felt like something out of The Hangover or something. Even if it was a half-decade before that movie was even made.
Does a man good to cut loose once in a while…